Sunday, October 27, 2013

Washington Recap

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

So the Bears lost. Again. This time to the tune of a 41-17 beatdown to the Washington Huskies, who in my mind will prove to be just a middle-upper middle Pac-12 team by the end of the season.

I could honestly repost last week's post on our previous loss, replacing Oregon State with Washington State, and chances are that over 90% of my thoughts would still be true. That's how repetitive this has become.

This won't be the longest post, but here are my most pressing thoughts.

Here's the most troubling issue: the Bears were simply outmatched last night, both on the field and on the sidelines. There were plenty of times that Cal defenders were actually in position to make plays. We simply don't have the speed or strength at key positions to defend the perimeter. There were a number of occasions when players like Dan Camporeale or Hardy Nickerson read the play properly, only to be simply beat to the edge due to their lack of speed. I can't count the number of times when our linebackers or defensive ends were chasing ball carriers from behind.

When our linebackers were actually able to diagnose run plays and take the right angles, they were simply getting blown up by pulling guards.

On top of that, because Washington was rolling the Bears with rushes to the perimeter all night, Cal's safeties had to respect the run, forcing them to have to creep up. Linebackers had to stay inside the box instead of bumping slot receivers at the line of scrimmage. That often led to single coverage on Washington's wide receivers who simply made our defensive backs look silly on a number of big passing play.

Plain and simple, Saturday's loss was not for a lack of effort. The Bears were simply outclassed physically and athletically by a upper-middle class Pac-12 team. I don't know if that's more frustrating or depressing.

Questionable Coaching Decisions
The Ugly:I was furious with the decision to pretty much wave the white flag at the end of the third quarter. Faced with a third and long, the Bears decided to run a draw play to Darren Ervin, to set up a field goal to cut into Washington's lead 38-10.

Just...why? What good does that do you? It doesn't inject any confidence into your offense. It doesn't make the game any less out of reach. It's pretty much a head coach admitting that the game is done. Now obviously the game was indeed out of reach, but I never want my head coach acknowledging it in the 3rd quarter. It's just a bad way to instill the "never say quit" attitude in a team.

The Bad:Previous to that, the staff went for an odd field goal fake play that involved WR/Holder Jackson Bouza throwing the ball out in the flat, four yards short of the first down marker. I'm not against the fake, but it was a terrible call. Dykes admitted as much in the press conference.

The Good:And on a slightly different note, I was not in an outrage with the decision to play Austin Hinder late in the game. The guy's earned it with his work ethic and team first attitude throughout the season. I don't buy into the "Kline is in the doghouse" move. There's nothing to indicate that Kline has done anything wrong. It was just the right moment to get Hinder his first collegiate snaps ever. This decision I'm okay with.

Goff Plays Ok
After winning back the starting job, Goff bounced back...a little. It was far from the sharp form he displayed at the beginning of the season, but he was leaps and bounds ahead of his previous road performances.

Goff was 32-54, for 336 yards and 1 TD. Most importantly, he had no turnovers. He made some absolutely sharp throws that show why the coaching staff continues to have so much confidence in him. Some really nice passes thrown on a frozen rope. He's still slightly jittery in the pocket however, which led him to rush through his progressions. He missed some wide open receivers at times, and was forced to check down on some critical third downs. The Bears were a miserable 7-22 on third downs, and Goff's indecision had a lot to do with it.

Ultimately, I don't think Goff played all that poorly. Still, the Bears were still sputtering on offense, managing just 7 points when the game was still in question. Like I said before, I'm not convinced Kline is the better option. But with your 1-7 team struggling to make something happen on the field offensively, why not see what he can do for you?

Worst Cal Season Ever?
As if this couldn't get more depressing, the Bears are on track to having one of the worst seasons for ever. For as outmatched as Cal has looked talent wise, no one could have convinced me that we'd be on pace for having this type of season. The Bears are looking at a winless season with the average point differential being at 21.1 points. If you take out Cal's 7 point win over FCS Portland State, the Bears have lost by an average of 25.1 points per game. The Bears haven't lost by within 2 touchdowns since their opener to Northwestern.

In addition to having the longest losing streak to FBS teams in the country (going back to last season), the Bears are looking like they're probably going to go winless in the conference. On top of that, throw in the worst statistically ranking defense in the country and an offense that's quickly sinking to those lows despite the presence of the much heralded offensive-minded duo of Sonny Dykes and Tony Franklin.

Moving Forward
A few weeks ago I got a little heat for proclaiming that Cal's program had reached its nadir following a home thrashing to Washington State. Many people point to the Holmoe era. Well it's looking like Cal could again be looking at a one win season, with all the aforementioned to boot. The biggest difference in my mind was that everyone and their mother knew that Holmoe was on his way out, which was reason enough for hope. We've JUST started the Sonny Dykes era. The only hope is that things get better next year or the year after, because we're certainly not seeing any progress this year.

I went on record in predicting that the Bears would be bowl eligible this season. Obviously, that was foolish. But few could have predicted the level of injuries and the lack of prowess by this coaching staff to prepare this team to play at the Pac-12 level. Injuries and youth only get you so far in explaining what we have. Ultimately, there's a certain level of indictment on the coaching staff in churning out one of the worst teams in FBS football.

Still cheering for these Bears though. Still looking for progress.


Anonymous said...

Cal simply does not have the defense required to run the "Bearaid" offense. A team must have depth at almost every position on defense because this type of offense is off the field so fast, the defense gets gassed and needs to be constantly rotated to be successful. Cal has no depth due to injuries. At what point does a coaching staff admit that the system does not fit the personnel and make adjustments. It seems the logical approach with the players available would be to try and slow the game down. Put an emphasis on first downs, eating up clock, and yes running more. From the little I saw Hinder showed mobility to extend a play and comes in cold and immediately gets a first down. You can bet the guy doesn't get any reps in practice. What would it hurt to look into some other types of offensive. One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

Bear with Fangs said...

I agree with you to the extent that the defense doesn't have the depth and will be unable to play at a high level if the offense gets off the field so fast.

The problem is that the offense is getting off the field so fast because it can't sustain drives. I actually think the offense has actually tried to slow it down in recent weeks, to little avail.

I have no doubt in my mind that the defense would play much better if the offense could string together 5 minute drives that actually resulted in TDs. It would give the defense some rest and more importantly, a sense of confidence knowing that they don't have to keep the opposing offense on every drive.

Anonymous said...

Come back Fang! We know the season is a toxic waste site and you have a new cub but we're sticking it out!

Anonymous said...